Cuts, nicks, and scrapes are a fact of life when living on a boat. And thus I have learned a few things about dealing with cuts. I’m not a doctor, nor do I have any super-advanced first aid training. Obviously, if a medical professional tells you something else, do what they say — this is just my own experience. And this is no substitute for getting some First Aid training and having a proper kit . . .
In the typical heat and humidity aboard a boat, cuts and scrapes are much more likely to get infected. Doubly so if you go for a swim (I know that water looks pure — I’ve learned the hard way that if you’re in the typical anchorage, it’s not).
The easiest way to avoid infections is to keep a tube of triple antibiotic ointment right next to the sink, in the head. Leave it right out where it’s an eyesore. And then, every time you wash your hands, dab a bit on any cuts and scrapes you have (hands, legs, feet, wherever). Once we started doing this, our cuts and scrapes just never got infected.
For cuts or scrapes that look like they might be getting infected, it’s a good idea to put some triple antibiotic ointment on a Band-Aid and put it over the area. The Band-Aid will keep the ointment in contact with the injury as well as keeping more dirt out of it.
A Quick Bandage
Sometimes, something’s happening and you just don’t have the luxury of going to the First Aid box and really taking care of things as you should. Right inside the nav desk, we always kept a roll of duct tape. Another one in the dinghy. More than once, we just pulled off a piece and stuck it over a cut until we could properly deal with it. I know, medical professionals are going to scream.
Keeping Band-Aids On
Another cruiser — a doctor — taught us about Tincture of Benzoin. Dab it on your skin first, and adhesive bandages stick much better, even if you’re sweating, washing dishes, or whatever. I wrote a full article about this and where to buy it (it can be hard to find) — read it here.
Thinking that you really need butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips, but you don’t have any? You can make your own — I learned how to in Girl Scouts, back before you could buy such things.
1. Cut a piece of tape the size that you want the finished bandage to be. First aid tape is the obvious choice, but you can use anything — I’ve used duct tape, electrical tape and even masking tape. You can also use a Band-Aid.
2. Fold the tape in half cross-wise, sticky side out. On the folded end, cut a triangle off each side, leaving a pointed end that is just barely joined to the other half by a section about 1/16″ inch wide.
3. Unfold the tape and twist the ends two complete times, so that there is a thin twisted section in the middle. You now have your butterfly bandage — admittedly not perfectly sanitary, but if it’s the only alternative . . .
4. Put one half on the skin on one side of the cut, so that the thin twisted section is right over the cut. Pull gently as you put the other side down on the other side of the cut, holding the two edges together.
5. You’ll probably have to make more than one butterfly — you want them about 1/4″ to 3/8″ apart if possible.
6. Once you get the butterflies in place (you did use Tincture of Benzoin under them so they’ll stay on, didn’t you?), cover with a traditional bandage with a dab of triple antibiotic on it.
Another option is to use SuperGlue — it’s similar to the surgical glue used in many operations. But — you can’t use the type that says it’s formulated not to stick to skin (yeah, you want it to stick the skin together) AND you don’t want to get your fingers stuck to the wound. Add in the fact that 90% of the time when we get a little tube of SuperGlue out, it’s already hard and I’m thinking that DIY butterflies are looking pretty good. Seriously, I’ve made my own butterflies quite a few times and they’ve worked just as well as the commercial ones — I’ve never had to have stitches, outside of surgery.